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7 Instrumental Insights From a Music Therapy Intern

Hi folks! For those of you who may be in the process of applying for internship, interviewing, or perhaps are anxiously awaiting your internship start date, this post is for YOU. Throughout this post, I will be identifying and exploring my seven lucky tidbits for introduction to music therapy internship. With three months of internship complete, these are some insights that I found most helpful throughout my journey so far.

1.  Graduate from “Student Mode”

Being an intern is a tricky phase. For music therapy interns we are technically still undergraduates striving to get that diploma, however, what is greatly misunderstood is the fact that you are a professional. When you transition into sessions you are the therapist. You control the music, the set up, the tone of the session, and so on. It is your session. Documentation is done on your watch and there is a definite independence that is in place. No one is over your shoulder watching you session plan, but rather you have the responsibility to plan, practice, and prepare the necessary materials for your session. So do yourself a favor and graduate from assignment-oriented “student mode” before arriving to internship.

Cartoon drawing of a yellow and black bumblebee with the word yourself underneath implying "be yourself"

2.  Be Yourself

This may seem cliche, but remember to be yourself. You received this position because of that “star” (pun-always intended) quality about you that made you stand out from the other applicants. Do not be afraid to use your strengths. If you make great jokes, use that to help build rapport with your client/s. If you know a lot about art, use your abilities to think of inventive  ways to incorporate it in your sessions. Your clients want to receive services from you, not you trying to act like someone else.  

3. Say Yes to New Opportunities

New opportunities are everywhere and coincidentally, most of the time they pop up at the very worst/most inconvenient times. It is okay to say no, but it is much more valuable to say yes. There have been several occasions where I wanted to literally run away from situations or new opportunities because of excuses stirring in my head. However, if I did I would have never learned the amount that I did by just doing it. Most often, I find the more you think about something, the more time you have to talk yourself out of it. So when new opportunities present themselves and sometimes they may scare you half to death, my advice is to just say yes. You never know what may come from a new opportunity.

4.  Use the Music

This perhaps seems like a given and you may be thinking “why wouldn’t you use the music as a person implementing music therapy?” however it is often overlooked or underestimated. Sometimes it is even forgotten, until you realize the negative outcome that a certain tone or musical element projects. As the late, Dr. Oliver Sacks said, “music is part of being human.” You know how cadences can cue certain behaviors, how rhythm can prompt fluent speech patterns, and how a certain melody can bring a person back to their first dance.  Music is your power tool, therefore use it to its utmost potential.

5.  “Treat Yo Self”

For all the Parks and Rec fans out there, I hope this note especially resonates with you. Although, I am not going to recommend getting your elbows bedazzled with diamonds or eating at a restaurant with a menu of sushi made from fish previously owned by celebrities (Season 7, Episode 6), it is important to sensibly “treat yo self.” Being therapists we pour so much of ourselves for the sake of our clients, yet “you cannot pour from an empty cup.” It is crucial to take care of ourselves and sometimes treat ourselves. A treat can be as simple as giving yourself 20 minutes of silent time a day, going on a bike ride, or taking a nap. Despite it not being something as grandiose as bedazzled elbows, your mind, body, and spirit will thank you for the treat.

6.  Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace

This tidbit is a shout out to the introverts out there. If you have a thought, question, idea, or comment, say it. It can be so easy at times to second guess ourselves or convince ourselves that an idea is not worth sharing but how will you truly know if you do not say it aloud? Let yourself be heard. I promise the verbal exchange of information will be much more valuable than the imaginary one you had spun circles around in your head.

7.  Trust the Process and Enjoy It

Lastly, internship may seem extremely daunting, but remember it is a process. Take it one day at a time and trust yourself. Do not be afraid to try new things. There will indefinitely be some mistakes and failures along the way but we are all human. Take those moments and find the “diamond in the rough”. This will be one of the greatest learning periods of your life, embrace it and enjoy the journey.

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